Monday, September 23, 2013

Crackdown leaves 100,000 refugees vulnerable

Refugees registered under the UNHCR have not been provided clear legal protection by the Home Ministry from the impending crackdown on illegal immigrants.

PETALING JAYA: The crackdown on illegal foreigner workers beginning on Sunday leaves more than 100,000 asylum-seekers and refugees vulnerable because they do not have documents yet, Tenaganita said.

“The Home Ministry has done nothing to provide a clear legal protection framework for the refugees registered by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and tens of thousands of asylum seekers waiting to be registered in Malaysia,” said migrants workers non-governmental organisation executive director Irene Fernandez.

She told reporters that the laws made no distinction between asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR and undocumented workers, and this would leave them vulnerable to a “crackdown”.

“Tenaganita would also like to remind the ministry that there are at least several hundred refugees who were forced by their employers to register under the 6P (programme), but remain undocumented due to their refugee status.

“What action will be taken to prevent registered and unregistered refugees from arrest, detention and deportation?” she asked.

She said Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s call for the crackdown on illegal migrants reflected “a failure of his leadership”.

Fernandez said the ministry had done nothing concrete to remove barriers preventing illegal immigrants from gaining legal status in the first place.

“So far, Tenaganita has filed cases involving 55 outsourcing agencies affecting more than 5,000 workers with the police, the immigration, the Home Ministry and Human Resources Ministry.

“In spite of hundreds of police reports made against these agents by workers, none of them have been investigated, arrested or charged,” said Fernandez.

She was referring to agencies granted permission by the government to carry out registration and legalisation of migrants.

Fernandez said she had received reports that these government-approved outsourcing firms had created their own “shell companies” and placed work permits under these firms without providing employment to the workers.

“Migrants who paid thousands of ringgit to these agents to obtain legal documents are now being targeted by the government,” she said.

She added that many of the migrants live in fear of human-trafficking and forced labour.

Fernandez said some had paid RM4,000 but yet to receive a work permit, while their passports remained with their agents.

If the home minister continues with the proposed crackdown, then the government is not only supporting fraud and abuse of migrants, but is in collusion with agents to operate a system of labour-trafficking,” said Fernandez.